I write about travel - part of the fun of travelling is the people I meet.
I make no secret of my writing when I'm travelling. My notebook is on the table beside me as I eat; on my knee in bus stations. It is often the focus of poeples' curiosity. Am I a writer, they ask.
Some take the opportunity to tell me the story of their lives and then ask if I'll put them in a book. They're looking for their time in the spotlight. I make no promises. Others are reticent, needing to know I'll not scatter their secrets. I never do - if someone tells me something in confidence, then I keep it to myself.
And I give details of my books and web address to anyone who asks, so they can check up and see what I've said about them. They have a right to reply.
But I've just come back from Cuba, where people only have access to the internet if they can prove they need it for their businesses or for educational reasons. And this excludes, not only the obvious sites like Facebook and Twitter (and this blog), but also Amazon. There are no e-readers in Cuba. And so no access to books like mine.
Which leaves me with a dilemma. I have always felt that people have a right to see what I say about them. I change names and identifying details, but most people could find themselves without too much trouble. I work hard to make sure I find good in people, to write with respect, even if I disagree with their ideas or way of life. I don't have a right to make judgements.
But, if I write about Cubans I met - they will never know, never be able to contact me and say, no, that is not how they remember it. (Or yes, wasn't that birthday cake wonderful!). They have no right of reply.
Does that mean, ethically, that I shouldn't write about them?
If I don't, I'm colluding with a system that keeps Cubans and their ideas and difficulties out of the literature spotlight.
If I do, I'm making people into little more than performing animals, to be observed and commented on, without them having any possibility of making a contribution of their own.
What would you do?
(If you want to see how I've written about other people, there are plenty of links on my website: http://www.jocarroll.co.uk)